It's rare that a movie can be hyped to such degree as Gravity, yet still defy expectations. To be clear, Gravity did not have the type of long-standing hype reserved for blockbuster sequels and franchises. Instead, the film quickly gathered a loud and insistent fan base who made it known that Gravity cannot be missed.
Having now seen Gravity, I can confirm its excellence. It's really hard to describe Gravity without using hyperbole. It's just that good.
Warning: This is a post-viewing reaction to Gravity. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, stop reading now. Otherwise, let’s go.
It seems as if filmmakers have always assumed that movies set in space would lack drama if you took out the sound.Gravity proves that silence, when used correctly, can make space utterly terrifying. Of course, it helps when the score is as fantastic as Steven Price’s. The score never seems to get the way, yet builds the sense of dread and desperation. In fact, the disconnection between the score and a lack of sound effects when the debris hit induced terror, as well as disorientation to match what the characters were experiencing.
I cannot overemphasize the role of the score in this film. It helps to communicate what are characters are feeling and thinking, without manipulating. I felt like I was along for the ride the whole time. At the end of the film, all of the tension was slowly released and a chill went down my spine, as if the conclusion of Gravity rushed over me and then faded away. Like a traumatic event, many of the emotions didn’t catch up to me until it was over.
Sandra Bullock fantastically plays scientist Ryan Stone, who is not fully trained as an astronaut; knowing just enough to get her home. George Clooney also does a fine job as our calming guide, Matt Kowalski. While his death was foreshadowed pretty early in the movie, I felt enough attachment to his character to feel the loss, yet maintain my focus on Sandra Bullock’s next step for survival. Director Alfonso Cuaron ensures that we see the movie through Ryan Stone’s eyes; moving from terror to relief, but never knowing what to do next.
Speaking of keeping us in Ryan’s point of view, I have a confession to make. I completely bought it when Kowalski reappeared toward the end of the movie. That is one heck of a dream sequence. So simple, yet executed so brilliantly. That summary could explain the entire movie.
Upon first viewing of Gravity, I noticed a few nods to the science fiction films that came before it. Ryan Stone clearly seems to be a spiritual relative of Ellen Ripley. Further, I cannot help but think of Wall-E when a fire extinguisher is used as a propelling device. I also love how many pens were flying around in the film. For me, pens floating in space serve as a recurring reminder of 2001; the last film I can think of that made me stare in wonder at the quality and seamlessness of its antigravity scenes. Lastly, I can’t think of anyone better voice of mission control than Ed Harris. I’m sure he didn’t plan on carving out a niche in talking people through disasters in space.
I must also give credit to Warner Brothers for daring to back such a film. I imagine that this film felt risky, but they obviously trusted their director. It’s not always common to skip title sequences almost entirely, kill of most of the cast early in the movie, and let science dictate action sequences. Heck, if people wondered whether or not audiences would a rather silent first act of Wall-E, Gravity seems to up the ante.
Perhaps time will point out some of the flaws in Gravity, but this film sure feels masterfully crafted. All of the little tricks that get us our characters through the movie seem natural. Nothing seems very contrived. We are simply taking along for the ride, and never given a reason to take ourselves out of the movie. I'm simply awestruck. From the opening scenes peering down at the Earth, to the chaotic debris-filled action, to the emotional ending; my jaw hit the floor and remained there for 90 minutes.